Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Shyness and Dignity” as Want to Read:
Shyness and Dignity
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Shyness and Dignity

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  2,138 ratings  ·  240 reviews
An Ibsen scholar falls desperately out of societypublication coinciding with Ibsen's 100th anniversary celebrations

In front of him, twenty-nine young men and women about the age of eighteen who looked at him and returned his greeting. He asked them to take out their school edition of The Wild Duck. He was once more struck by their hostile attitude toward him. But it
Paperback, 150 pages
Published July 25th 2006 by Graywolf Press (first published 1994)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Shyness and Dignity, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Shyness and Dignity

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.86  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,138 ratings  ·  240 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Shyness and Dignity
Adam Dalva
Feb 02, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this novel, the story of a high-school Ibsen teacher who has a minor, ignored breakthrough that leads to breakdown, but I'm surprised that Solstad's publishers chose S + D as his English language debut. Though perhaps if I hadn't recently read both T. SINGER and ARMAND V, I would have been more surprised by his characteristic style - lengthy single-segment subplots, those recursive sentences, thrilling literary digression. With these known to me, I was disappointed to find Elias a ...more
While struggling to open his umbrella in the school yard where he teaches, Elias Rukla bursts into a rant, berates a female student who is watching him in amazement, and then lunges at a group of students with his broken umbrella. In that single, dreadful moment, Rukla realizes his teaching career is finished, and there would be no going back to life as he has known it. He has now, quite simply, quite unexpectedly, "fallen out of society." Dag Solstad's novel tells the story of a "socially aware ...more
MJ Nicholls
A bunch of so-so ideas barely stapled together in novel-form. Elias Rukla (fore- and surname used throughout the whole novel) is a teacher who has a moment of realisation about a peripheral character in Ibsens The Wild Duck. His pupils couldnt give a hoot, and he smashes an umbrella to bits in the playground as a kind of rebellion.

Flashback, then, to his time at university, his friendship with an eminent philosopher, and his subsequent marriage to an indescribably beautiful woman, who is
A moving, poignant novel with an unusual style - like a work of music based on a man's interior life. The protagonist, Dr. Elias Rukla, is a thoughtful, rather humble teacher of Norwegian literature who feels sure that his work is valuable to society, until one day -- after a sudden new insight into Ibsen's The Wild Duck -- he perceives a change -- in his students, in society, among his fellow teachers -- that leaves him feeling profoundly alienated. Unable to go on, he melts down on the school ...more
Mar 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Elias Rukla is a middle-aged high school teacher of Norwegian literature. His wife, Eva, is a former beauty whose looks have faded with age. Elias feels stranded in time, longing for deep connections and the exciting conversations and meaningful friendship of his youth with Eva's former husband, he is suddenly lit up by an insight into Ibsen's famous play, The Wild Duck, which Rukla has taught almost without feelings for years. However, he feels his students' hostility to him, as a pedantic ...more
Torgeir Fjeld
Jan 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
An element of intranslatability in the title: Dignity is translated from Norw 'verdighet', which isn't wrong, but in the Norw there's an additional subtext of value ('verdi'), or -- more to the point -- value-ness. So there's a sense in which the title alludes to shyness and value-ness, the sense that existence has been assigned value(s), which makes it appear more contingent than the English assumes.
Aug 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Elias Rukla is a middle-aged Norwegian high school teacher who has been teaching literature for 25 years . He has seniority, a comfortable position, and while he may not be an inspiring teacher, he is competent and respected, and generally satisfied with his position.

The novel opens with a day in his classroom when he unexpectedly sees something new in Ibsens Wild Duck, a remark made by a minor character which seems to open up a different way of looking at Ibsens 19th century masterpiece. He
Mar 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This was a pretty good read. A slow starter but after a while it picked up momentum. Although written in 1996 it seems to have been farsighted in its articulation of a deep unease in a core middle class stratum of our Western societies. Which makes political upheavals such as Brexit and sociological phenomena such as the wave of burnouts perhaps a bit more understandable. The following quote expresses this unease very well and also gives a flavour of Solstads highly strung, obsessive style.

Paul Fulcher
Apr 06, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
"I wouldn't be surprised if it rained he thought, picking up his collapsible umbrella."

Shyness and Dignity, translated by the excellent if somewhat opinionated ( Sverre Lyngstad, is the second Dag Solstad novel I've read and he's rapidly joining by list of favourite authors alongside his countrymen Saabye Christensen, Petterson, Kjaerstad, Hamsun and of course Knausgaard.

However, I didn't find this novel as strong as Professor Andersen's night (
Sep 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished
This novel has an existential mood which reminds me of Sartre's Nausea. Elias Rukla was awaken one day and start contemplating his life.

I could feel a different closeness with this novel as I live in Norway, having been to the places mentioned in it, or having experienced being a student in the University of Oslo. The setting was pretty much involving the life of students in a Norwegian context. I could also relate to the boredom Elias felt in his mundane everyday life of stable Norway. And his
William Cane
Aug 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is Kafka leaping into the 21st century with plenty of Beckett thrown into the mix; a brilliant tour de force that brings pastiche and pathos to a new high.
Dilara Ekici
Dec 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book has further fed my love for Norwegian literature and culture. I had waited for quite sometime for the book to be translated into Turkish and it was worth the wait. The concept of "Solitude in society" is studied very well and reading the tortured mind of Rukla, one can really feel the exhausted his frustration and despair. The narrative and the language, at least the Turkish translation, have great fluidity but some sentences and paragraphs are very long as the book does not have any ...more
Aug 20, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If this book wasn't so thin (about 130 pages), I would not finished it. The story was a lot of thinking back, too many thoughts of not so many things. It was also the largest collection I have seen of long sentences, the longest were almost one page long! No chapters or pauses, just a long continuous text. This was not in my taste.
Rode Hegstad
Mar 26, 2012 rated it did not like it
Couldn't figure out how to give a novel less than one star...a much needed missing option for this one!
Boring plot, horrible descriptions.. do I need to go on?
Bihter Günsenin
Feb 10, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 08, 2016 rated it it was ok
I wanted to love this book. The premise is interesting and, as a student and sometimes teacher of dramatic literature, I was intrigued by how Dag Solstad was setting up a pivotal moment in the life of his central character, Elias Rukla, in the aftermath of Rukla teaching Ibsen's The Wild Duck to a class of disinterested high school students. I was equally excited to read the first English translation of a novel by Solstad, who is a well-respected Norwegian writer.

Solstad is a good writer with a
Nov 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Elias works as teacher in Norway, during the one simple day he discusses with his students about one book review then he starts to think something in his mind. While he was at university, he becomes with a god friend with Johan, their mate ship continues also after Johan's marriage with Eva. He also feels admiration against to Johan and also, he likes to Eva even though she is wife of Johan. But in the future, he will be married with her in some way. In the coming years he feels lonely himself ...more
Mar 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Solstad reminded me quite a lot of Thomas Bernhard. A middle-aged man has a meltdown and looks back on his life. The main character, Elias Rukla is sort of like a passive bystander in his own life which leads to stuff just happening to him and the world leaving him behind. It's a melancholic small novel. I liked it.
Apr 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book reminds me a lot to all those amazing feelings whilst reading José Saramago's books. It feels like Elias Rukla, like so many people, held so many angers inside that it took only one incident to blow everything up. I was mesmerised. I want more.
Elena Sala
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: scandinavian
Dag Solstad, author of SHYNESS & DIGNITY, is one of Norway's most celebrated living authors. He has written around thirty books, however, only a few have been translated into English. Born in 1941, he is considered a chronicler of Norway's changing times.

Elias Rukla, the main character in this novel, is a middle-aged literature high school teacher. He has spent two hours teaching Ibsen's THE WILD DUCK to his students, who are bored to death and show no interest in his class. While pondering
Becky Loader
Dec 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
After reading several Kurt Wallander mysteries, I decided to read a book by a Norwegian modern fiction writer. Hmmmm. The story centers around a high school teacher who has been teaching a class on Ibsen's "The Wild Duck" for about 25 years. During a class, he has an epiphany about a line in the play that has never stood out to him before. The entire book is about his epiphany and how it changes his life.

I think I need to try another Norwegian author.
Ned Campbell
Jun 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Not since Sabbaths Theater has a mans unraveling been so well told. In Shyness & Dignity, Solstad lives in one pivotal moment the moment Elias Rukla realizes his life will never be the same again. You wont want to stop reading until the moment has passed. ...more
Cihan  G. Canpolat
Jan 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First off, I knew nothing about Scandinavian literature before reading this book, so it was the first real taste of Scandinavian literature for me and I loved it.

Apart from some long sentences which sometimes make it hard to focus and read, the narrative was fluid. I especially loved the way Dag Solstad uses the stream of consciousness technique throughout the book to portray the experiences that the main character had in the past which leads him to look back on his life.

A thought-provoking and
Jul 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonder experience of reading. This novel needs high focus of mind while reading it. If there is any lack of focus, then one has to re-read the passages. Testing package of one's reading ability.
Willy Akhdes
This is a serious novel with a philosophic approach. Dag Solstad tells it with a bombarding sentences without any pit-stop that made me instantly get into Elias's mind. A story about a middle age teacher who felt indecision and emptiness in life, felt his role in social life is not really needed. He got me informed about Scandinavian literature. Existentialism thinking is very clearly legible through the story of a Elias's friend who study about the relationship between Marx and Kant's ...more
Harry Rutherford
A short, introspective novel about a literature teacher in a Norwegian secondary school; he has an unexpectedly emotional reaction to an apparently trivial moment in a lesson, and it triggers off an examination of his life story.

The portrayal of his interior life seemed nuanced and persuasive, and the book does a good job of establishing one set of ideas about who this man is, and then unexpectedly showing him to us in a new light. It's well done and rather touching.
Nov 07, 2007 rated it liked it
My first real taste of Scandinavian literature and a pretty bleak from start to finish. Might be written to deter would be teachers. It is a strangely touching portrait of a man breaking down in his fifties ranting about modern culture and education. For me, in the end it is just a little bit too despairing and lacking in narrative drive.
Feb 07, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The reason why I choose to drop books early on is simply to avoid reading books like these. No offense to the fans, I just didn't enjoy it at all.

Also found it funny yet at the same time incredibly annoying how the author constantly used around 50-100 words to describe something that could be done with just a few.
Jul 31, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people who enjoy feeling depressed
Recommended to Elise by: my mother!
It was solely due to wanting to be able to post this on GR that I finished this cotton picking book. I had to drag myself kicking and screaming through the final ten pages. It was agony. Okay, the guy can write, but what a miserable wretched book. And did I mention, boring, repetitive, and incredibly depressing?
Kobe Bryant
May 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Its just a midlife crisis, dude
« previous 1 3 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: Add text to description 3 17 Nov 22, 2018 09:37AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Page count correction add ISBN-10 5 196 Mar 07, 2018 10:59AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Beni Kör Kuyularda
  • The Halfway House
  • Bilinmeyen Sular
  • Tarihî Kırıntılar
  • Doppler
  • Slutten på verden slik vi kjenner den (Doppler, #3)
  • Die Liebesblödigkeit
  • Gergedan: Büyük Küfür Kitabı
  • Nohut Oda
  • The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I Am
  • Dünyadan Aşağı
  • Labirent
  • Kanayak
  • عودة
  • Sarıyaz
  • Glaxo
  • Çerçialan
  • A Happy Boy
See similar books…
Dag Solstad is one of the most recognized Norwegian writers of our time. His debut was in 1965 with the short story collection "Spiraler" (Spirals). His first novel, "Irr! Grønt!", was published four years later. His books have been translated into 30 different languages.

He has won a number of awards, which include the Norwegian critics award three times and also being considered for the

News & Interviews

Regular readers of romance know that the genre is currently chock-full of fresh plotlines and heroines who save themselves (and sometimes the he...
145 likes · 62 comments
“And so, when the chips are down, I must say, though not without a sense of repugnance, that if you wish to show your belief in democracy, you also have to do so when you are in the minority, convinced both intellectually and, not least, in your innermost self, that the majority, in the name of democracy, is crushing everything you stand for and that means something to you, indeed, all that gives you the strength to endure, well, that gives a kind of meaning to your life, something that transcends your own fortuitous lot, one might say. When the heralds of democracy roar, triumphantly bawling out their vulgar victories day after day so that it really makes you suffer, as in my own case, you still have to accept it; I will not let anything else be said about me, he thought.” 2 likes
“for a brief moment it is his fate, and nothing else, that is frozen into immobility on the stage. The moment of the minor figure. Both before and after this he remains the same, the man who reels off those smart lines, one of which has acquired an immortal status in Norwegian literature: ‘If you take the life-lie away from an average person, you take away his happiness as well.” 1 likes
More quotes…